Dawn Moskowitz: April 1 cutoff of health insurance endangers thousands of us

Dawn Moskowitz: April 1 cutoff of health insurance endangers thousands of us

This commentary is by Dawn Moskowitz, a resident of Burlington.

As one of thousands of people facing the imminent loss of in-network coverage with UVM Health Network, I’m sounding the alarm.

Is your family, like mine, insured by a “United Healthcare Commercial Insurance” plan? Have you received notice that care from your current doctors and nearby hospitals will no longer be covered as in-network as of April 1?

Do you also have family members with appointments scheduled in April with uncertain and likely steep costs to you? Are you scrambling to figure out where and how you might access more affordable care?

It’s frightening to receive this news and read the articles — and to feel helpless. I’m calling out to all of us impacted by this dispute between UnitedHealthcare Insurance and UVM Health Network to seek a renewed contract in the coming days.

Please join me in contacting the Vermont Health Care Advocate at 1-800-917-7787 or fill out an online request here as they assist in addressing this issue.

I’ve read Eliza Graves’ story about receiving a harrowing cancer diagnosis and needing to drive almost three hours roundtrip for chemotherapy. Years ago, my husband fought an aggressive cancer with a harsh course of treatment for over a year. So I can vividly imagine the added exhaustion and stress of needing to receive care much farther from home.

My heart goes out to Eliza and I appreciate her and Jordan Calderara speaking out to the media. I realize that I need to speak out too. As those impacted, we need to raise our voices collectively, before it’s too late.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been doing my best to advocate. I’ve called the office of the president at UVM Medical Center and spoken with the patient experience manager, who assured me that my concerns, and those of all callers, are getting to leadership.

I’ve heard lots of explanations of why our elected leaders do not have the authority to address the issue, and been told who else I should call. I’ve written countless emails, many unanswered.

I have connected with Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation and Sen. Leahy’s office. And, with assistance from my state representatives and a state senator, I’ve learned how the Green Mountain Care Board is engaging and have been connected to the Vermont Health Advocate.

I know that I’m not alone, and that others affected are doing this same kind of outreach and getting increasingly desperate.

I understand that there is no simple path to UVM Health Network reaching a contract with UnitedHealthcare. And yet, together, I truly believe that we are not powerless.

Please join me in contacting the Vermont Health Care Advocate to help bring us together. Time is running out! We need every one of the estimated 3,000 to 10,000 people this directly affects to rise up and show that, like Eliza and Jordan, we are more than a number.

We need to implore all of the relevant parties in our state to work with UVM Health Network and UnitedHealthcare to resolve this crisis for so many families like mine. From what I’ve come to understand, that means the governor, Green Mountain Care Board and the Department of Financial Regulation.

It also means our state representatives and senators, leaders of our legislative health care committees, as well as Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders and Congressman Welch coordinating to ensure the successful outcome of the complex interplay of factors that has brought us to this untenable situation, leaving thousands of Vermonters and nearby New Yorkers with greatly reduced access to health care and no options offered us.

Like many, the loss of in-network coverage with UVM Health Network on April 1 will have a drastic impact on my family. Our costs to access the health care that we rely on will skyrocket.

I work remotely for a modest-sized nonprofit and my husband is self-employed. We do not have alternate insurance options. And even if we could find a way to work with my employer to try to get different health insurance, and if it were somehow possible to do all the paperwork in one day, it still would all fall apart — since we can’t enroll in a new health insurance plan in April.

If an agreement is not reached by March 31, thousands of us will no longer have access to in-network benefits starting the next day.

At a minimum, we need to maintain in-network coverage through December 2022, so we have a reasonable amount of time to find either care that is more accessible and affordable or to find alternate health insurance during an open enrollment window. It is not fair and just to end in-network access on April 1.

It’s my hope that as we make our stories known, and as UVM Health Network and our leaders see and hear the full impact of this impending crisis, our state will respond to this situation with the same urgency, care and compassion that is mounted for others emergencies, such as a flood causing harm and damage to thousands of Vermonters.

I recognize this is a complex issue that highlights the challenges of our health care system, and that people have strong opinions about the cause — the profits of insurers, the cost of medical care in general, and inadequate Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. I too want us to find real solutions to this broken system.

But those won’t come soon enough to protect my family, and so many others who face major financial, emotional and health costs on April 1. Please contact the health care advocate now. April 1 is just two days away.

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Tags: dawn moskowitz, Eliza Graves, insurance coverage, United Healthcare, UVM Health Network, Vermont Health Advocate


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